It was a classic car weekend. On Friday, I went to the second annual Dragone Classic Motorcars auction in Westport. It was a special one for me, because a couple of weeks before I'd actually driven one of the cars on offer, a supercharged Continental Touring Berline from 1934.
This is a car from the grand days of motoring. Owned by Mrs. Henry Evans, the wife of an insurance magnate, it three times crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. Despite its bulk, the car was something of a period hot rod — the Duesy packed more than 300 horsepower. At the auction, it was a no-sale after bids reached $1 million.
Two other early celebrity cars I was watching did better. A 1927 Rolls-Royce P1 Piccadilly Roadster (it also had a closed body for formal occasions) sold for $205,000 (not too far off the estimate of $250,000 to $350,000). The value of this made-in-Springfield Rolls was considerably enhanced by the fact that J.P. Morgan Jr. was the first owner.
Also sold, for $152,500, was a 1910 Renault town car that had belonged to John Jacob Astor IV, who went down with the Titanic. How's that for provenance?
And I was amazed by the furious bidding for a 1907 Columbia electric car, made in Hartford. Many cars at the auction were listed as "tentative," meaning they didn't sell, but a lot of people wanted the only known Park Surrey model, and it sold for $152,000. "At the cutting edge of electric cars in its day," said Manny Dragone. I guess so.
From Dragone's on Friday to the Greenwich Concours on Saturday. I went to the latter with my engineer stepfather, Lance, who's more interested in the engines than the styling. If the hood isn't up, he moves on.
What's not to like about the Concours, especially on a sunny day? Highlights for me were a gorgeous 1929 Duesenberg Model J prototype with body by Murphy, and — I was agape — a 1934 Packard 12-cylinder boattail speedster. I had no idea there were such avant-garde Packards, and it turns out that the one in Greenwich was a 1982 replicar, but owner Craig Kappell told me there are also two originals (one that was in the Harrah collection).
But I got the biggest kick out of a car that wasn't even in the show, a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300C station wagon, the only one of its kind. Built by Binz for a wealthy woman who used it to transport her luggage from New York to her yacht in Palm Beach.
Bonham's also held an auction on Sunday, featuring such sales as a 1967 Aston-Marton DB6 Vantage Volante convertible owned by Leonard Bernstein (it fetched $825,000). A very sporty 1930 Bugatti Type 43 Supercharged Sports 2/4 Seater was also in the stratosphere at $875,000. A 1911 Winton used in the film Cheaper by the Dozen made $220,000. It pays to give rides to New York aristocracy and movie stars.